Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Cottenham

Lord Cottenham wearing ceremonial robes when presiding in the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor. Detail of a painting by Charles Robert Leslie.
Lord Chancellor
In office
16 January 1836  30 August 1841
Monarch William IV
Prime Minister The Viscount Melbourne
Preceded by In commission
Succeeded by The Lord Lyndhurst
In office
6 July 1846  19 June 1850
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by The Lord Lyndhurst
Succeeded by The Lord Truro
Personal details
Born 29 April 1781 (1781-04-29)
Wimpole Street, London
Died 29 April 1851(1851-04-29) (aged 70)
Pietra Santa, Lucca, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Caroline Wingfield-Baker (1801–1868)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Charles Christopher Pepys /ˈpɛps/,[1] 1st Earl of Cottenham PC QC (29 April 1781  29 April 1851)[2] was a British lawyer, judge and politician. He was twice Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

Background and education

Cottenham was born in London, the second son of Sir William Pepys, 1st Baronet, a master in chancery, who was descended from John Pepys, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, a great-uncle of Samuel Pepys the diarist. Educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Pepys was called to the bar, Lincoln's Inn in 1804.[3][4]

Practising at the Chancery bar, Cottenham's progress was slow, and it was not till twenty-two years after his call that he was made a King's Counsel. He sat in Parliament successively for Higham Ferrers and Malton, was appointed Solicitor General in 1834, and in the same year became Master of the Rolls. On the formation of Lord Melbourne's second administration in April 1835, the great seal was for a time in commission, but eventually Cottenham, who had been one of the commissioners, was appointed Lord Chancellor (January 1836) and was at the same time elevated to the peerage as Baron Cottenham, of Cottenham in the County of Cambridge. He held office until the defeat of the ministry in August 1841.[3]

In February 1841, at the time of the trial of Lord Cardigan for attempted murder, Cottenham claimed ill health, leaving the task of presiding as Lord High Steward to the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Lord Denman.[5] In 1846 he again became Lord Chancellor in Lord John Russell's administration. His health, however, had been gradually failing and he resigned in 1850. Shortly before his retirement, he was created Viscount Crowhurst, of Crowhurst in the County of Surrey, and Earl of Cottenham,[3] of Cottenham in the County of Cambridge. He lived at Prospect Place, Wimbledon from 1831 to 1851. He had succeeded his elder brother as third Baronet in 1845. In 1849 he also succeeded a cousin as fourth Baronet of Juniper Hill.


Lord Cottenham married Caroline Elizabeth, daughter of William Wingfield-Baker, in 1821. They had five sons and three daughters. He died at Pietra Santa, Lucca, in the Italian Grand Duchy of Tuscany, in April 1851,[3] aged 70, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles. Lady Cottenham died in April 1868, aged 66. Cottenham's niece Emily Pepys (1833–1887), daughter of Henry Pepys, Bishop of Worcester, was a child diarist.


  1. This branch of the family pronounced the name "Peppis", not "Peeps", like the diarist. Gillian Avery: Introduction. In: The Journal of Emily Pepys (London: Prospect Books, 1984. ISBN 0-907325-24-6), p. 11.
  2. Jones, Gareth H. "Pepys, Charles Christopher". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/21902. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. 1 2 3 4  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cottenham, Charles Christopher Pepys". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 252–253. This cites:
    • Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors (1869)
    • E. Foss, The Judges of England (1848–1864)
    • E. Manson, Builders of our Law (1904)
    • J. B. Atlay, The Victorian Chancellors (1906)
  4. "Pepys, Charles Christopher (PPS797CC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1995) [1953]. The Reason Why. Smithmark. p. 77.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Milton
Member of Parliament for Higham Ferrers
Succeeded by
John Ponsonby
Preceded by
Lord Cavendish of Keighley
Henry Gally Knight
Member of Parliament for Malton
With: Henry Gally Knight to 1832
Viscount Milton (2) 1832–33
John Charles Ramsden from 1833
Succeeded by
John Childers
John Charles Ramsden
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir John Campbell
Solicitor General
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Rolfe
Preceded by
Sir John Leach
Master of the Rolls
Succeeded by
The Lord Langdale
Political offices
In commission
Title last held by
The Lord Lyndhurst
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
The Lord Lyndhurst
Preceded by
The Lord Lyndhurst
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
The Lord Truro
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Cottenham
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys
Baron Cottenham
Baronetage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Henry Leslie
(of Juniper Hill)
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Pepys
(of London)
Succeeded by
Charles Edward Pepys
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